Nutrition tips for active aging

Elizabeth Holland and Avery Martin contributed to this story.

For aging adults, remaining cognizant of the nutritional value of the foods you eat is paramount; but it isn’t always the easiest task. By staying aware of your body, eating a variety of foods with key nutrients, and providing yourself with ease in the process of eating, you can turn aging into active aging.

A spread of lettuce, green onions, tomatoes, and various seafood and meat on a wooden table.

Eat a variety of foods

Certain nutrients are frequently missing from the diet of older adults. These include:

Protein

  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Cheese

Fiber

  • Beans
  • Berries
  • Fruit
  • Grains
  • Avocado

Vitamin D

  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Milk
  • Orange Juice

Calcium

  • Spinach
  • Almonds
  • Broccoli
  • Milk
  • Cheese

As you grow older, you are more likely to not get enough of these nutrients because it’s harder for your body to absorb them from food. Getting enough nutrients is important because it can decrease your chances of many different diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, bone fracture, and infections. Just increasing your fiber intake to the recommended daily value will reduce your chances of getting type 2 diabetes by 62%!

Drink enough water

Did you know that men and women both need at least 8 cups of fluids each day? As you age, your body is at a higher risk for dehydration. This can lead to at a higher risk of confusion, falling, urinary tract infection, blood clots, and kidney problems. By staying hydrated, you will feel less tired, have improved thinking abilities, better immune function, reduced constipation, and better weight control.

Smart Tip! Improve the taste of water by adding fruits such as berries, pineapple chunks, orange slices or even your favorite fruit juice! Drink from your favorite water bottle to keep track of how much fluid you have had during the day. And eat your water by adding food such as soup, tomatoes, cantaloupe, cucumbers, and oranges into your diet.

Keep your food safe at home

Food poisoning is any illness that is caused by the food you eat. Of those who get food-borne illness, 46% of older adults are hospitalized due to a more difficult recovery once you get sick. To avoid illness at home, make sure to:

  • Clean your hands and all surfaces/utensils with warm soapy water.
  • Rise fruits and vegetables to remove dirt.
  • Scrub produce that has firm skin (melons, potatoes, carrots).
  • Cut away bruised areas before eating.

Make chewing easier

If you struggle to chew certain foods, you are not alone! If you avoid certain foods because they are difficult to chew, your body may be missing important nutrients. Don’t worry, there are several ways you can make chewing easier while still making a delicious meal.

  • Try eating softer foods, such as avocados, cottage cheese, salmon and eggs.
  • Cook your foods with a crock-pot to keep ingredients soft and moist. Try steaming in the microwave by adding a few spoonfuls of water to food in a microwave safe dish, covering with a lid and heat for 2-3 minutes.
  • Change the form of the food by chopping it into small pieces, or mash/ puree with a blender or food processor.
  • Add a low sodium sauce or gravy to soften and add flavor.

Manage medication side effects

If you are like many Americans, you may deal with medication side effects. While medicines are important, these effects might cause you to change your diet and miss valuable nutrients. Medications can cause a loss of taste or smell, loss of appetite, heartburn, nausea and more. There are many strategies you can use to make meals more appealing:

  • Include a variety of colors and textures in your meal to stimulate your other senses.
  • Rotate among different foods on your plate while you eat.
  • Add potent flavorings besides sugar and salt (herbs/spices, cheese, bacon bits, nuts, olive oil).
  • Set an attractive place setting (tablecloth, placemat, flowers in a vase).
  • Eat with other people.

By keeping each of these tips in mind, aging in relation to nutrition can become an active and enjoyable process. Go out and enjoy your favorite meal with your favorite people, and continually strive to live healthily.

For more delicious recipes, nutrition tips, and cooking and nutrition classes, contact the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center at (970) 495-5916 or see the KRNC website. More health tips are also available at the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board. Lastly, don’t forget to sign up for the KRNC monthly newsletter!

Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center